Can I see Amida as "she"?

Site-Wide Activity Forums Shrine Room Buddhist Q&A Can I see Amida as "she"?

This topic contains 14 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Acharya Kaspalita (temple host) 1 month, 1 week ago.

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  • #1867

    A question posed to me by a sangha member:

    We always refer to Amida as ‘he’…obviously this comes from Tathagata’s story of a male who became a bodhisattva and then Amitabha/Amitayus. A story of one of the 84,000 ways into the Dharma – which is the way that feels right for me.

    But…

    Is Amida an actually existent being or a personification of Buddhahood – we can’t know!!

    When it comes down to the imagery of the personification of Buddhahood (love, compassion, wisdom) then female rather than male feels more natural to me. My own individual projection, coming from my experiences as a human being. Can I see Amida as “she”?

    Or….Sex/gender – less? The universe is both yin and yang?

    Reply:

    @dharmavidya answered a similar question some time ago
    :: link to post

    QUESTION: Can we think of Amida as mother?

    SHORT ANSWER: Yes

    LONGER ANSWER: Buddhas can appear in whatever form is necessary to save sentient beings, so can certainly appear as mother. However, one has to be careful in designing one’s own Buddha because there is a substantial chance that one is just massaging one’s own delusions, desires, preferences, prejudices and so on. Iconographically, Amida figures are invariably male, but commonly a very gentle, soft male. However, if what was needed was for Amida to appear as a fierce dragon, I’m sure that would also be possible. Perhaps Amida has already appeared as the iconic figures of some other religions too.

    In the sutras Amida is male. Yet, I can see what you mean – in many ways, the Infinite Light, Infinite Life, font of all love and acceptance, could be seen as beyond narrow gender definitions. In the Amida iconography he has two attendant bodhisattvas, Tai Shih Chi and Quan Shi Yin – She who Hears the Cries of the World. Perhaps you would like to add a statue or picture of Quan Yin to your shrine?

  • #1873

    Thanks Sujatin, these days when I’m talking about Amida I will often say “he/she” or “she/he” recognising that Amida can manifest in many useful different ways…

  • #1874

    I like this question and this answer! I like what Honen said when someone asked him if it was okay to take a partner and still be a nembutsu practitioner. He said that if it helps you to have a partner, take one, and it if helps you to not have one, don’t have one. Does it support our spiritual practice or does it support our ego? Always a good question!!

  • #1875

    …wondering if there’s an even more inclusive and elegant way of referring to Amida

  • #1876

    Oyasama (or Beloved Parent)?

  • #1877

    Yes that’s nice, Tathagata as well, I suppose. Although both of these might need some explanations to go along with them 🙂

  • #1878

    Yes that’s nice, Tathagata as well, I suppose. Although both of these might need some explanations to go along with them 🙂

  • #1879

    Difficult as I would go with the person who told the story so Buddha. That said I guess it doesn’t really matter if you identify easier with one sex rather than another.

  • #1881

    I love the word & concept of oyasama. mummydaddy.

  • #1882

    It does convey a reassuring and loving feeling of being held and nurtured, doesn’t it, @satyarobyn?

  • #1884

    Ian Summers-Noble
    Participant

    Thank you for this

    Namo Amida Bu

    Love Oyasama

    I’ll own up…I asked this question to Sujatin. Due to over-thinking (my main cause of delusion) and ego-fear (appearing daft or controversial) I didn’t put the question directly to the sangha on this website.

    How could I have been so daft not to! 🙂 Annoying but funny (taking a step back) this ego stuff?

    Thank You – Peace, Love and Light

  • #1885

    I also like Nyorai, Japanese for Tathagata, which means both ‘Thus gone one’ (to Nirvana or the Pureland) and ‘Thus come one’.

  • #1886

    Yes, I do too – how moving that he has come, from the heavenly realms, for us, for our sake! What blessings we receive – Namo Amida Bu

  • #3565

    Jesus
    Participant

    I have wondered myself about the 35 Vow of Amitabha Buddha, and don’t know what to think about it

    “If, when I attain buddhahood, women in the immeasurable and inconceivable buddha lands of the ten directions who, having heard my Name,
    rejoice in faith, awaken aspiration for enlightenment, and wish to renounce
    womanhood should after death be reborn again as women, may I not attain
    perfect enlightenment”

    I am self a man, but didn’t feel comfortable reading this. After thinking a little I thought it could be that some women have suffered so much, they may wish to renounce to womanhood, not because womanhood is bad, but because women suffer more than men.

     

  • #3566

    Hi Jesus, thanks for your thoughts. We do have to acknowledge the patriarchal nature of much Buddhist history, and we can choose to do better.

     

    Our teacher interprets the 35th vow as:

    “Oh Blessed One, may I not come to the complete awakening if, when I have done so, it is not then the case that women in all Buddha lands throughout the ten directions who listen to my Name, have serene faith and aspire to awakening, and who hate the forms and statuses imposed upon them as women, shall not, on entering my land, be liberated therefrom.”

     

    See the version of the sutra we use here: http://www.amidamandala.com/the-larger-pureland-sutra-sukhavativyuha-manifesting-the-land-of-bliss/

     

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